What If: The Rangers only got one of Chris Drury/Scott Gomez

This is going to be an on-going series this summer, analyzing specific points in Rangers’ history that had significant impact on the future of the club, and looking at the flip side, and what could have happened if the Rangers went in another direction.

The summer of 2007 was one of change for the Rangers. Fresh off a rough second round loss to the Buffalo Sabres, in which Chris Drury scored with 7.7 seconds left to tie Game 5, with winning in OT and then winning Game 6 to close out the Rangers.

That crushing loss came at a time the Rangers were at a crossroads. Michael Nylander’s contract was up. Jaromir Jagr had one year left on his deal, ditto Martin Straka. With Nylander gone, the Blueshirts were looking at Matt Cullen as their 1C, and no one behind him. Brandon Dubinsky appeared in 6 regular season games, but he was no guarantee at that point.

Drury, Danny Briere, and Scott Gomez were the prizes of the free agent market, and it was no secret that the Rangers were going to go after at least one of them. They eventually landed both Drury and Gomez, later trading Cullen to free up the cap space ($2.875 million).

But there was a chance neither Drury nor Briere hit the market. Sabres ownership meddled in hockey operations, and because of this lost both of their prized centers, who both wanted to stay in Buffalo.

What if Buffalo retained their centers, and the Rangers only landed Scott Gomez?

Let’s assume here that the Rangers still got Gomez to be their 1C. That leaves Cullen as the 2C, a role in which the Blueshirts appeared comfortable the season prior. Dubinsky would be the rookie getting 3C minutes. Center depth, while not as strong as adding Drury, would still be strong, and the Rangers would have an additional $7 million in cap space.

Let’s also assume that there won’t be a significant standings change for the Rangers here. Cullen still put up 49 points in that first season with Carolina, with another 20-goal, 40-point season after that. There wasn’t a significant drop-off there.

The 2008 offseason likely continues as we expect. Wade Redden still lands in New York. Ditto Markus Naslund.

But it’s the 2009 offseason that changes things.

In 2009, the Rangers signed Marian Gaborik to his five year, $7.5 million deal. To clear space, the Rangers sent Gomez to Montreal in a deal that sent back Ryan McDonagh.

Do the Rangers need to clear the cap space if they don’t have Drury? Drury’s cap hit was $7.05 million. It’s not as easy as a one-for-one swap with Gaborik here, since you have to factor in Cullen’s $2.875 million.

Lest we forget Chris Higgins and his $2.25 million cap hit. He came over in that cap shedding deal as well, and it basically offsets the Cullen factor. Now assuming my math is right, the Rangers are only at a $600,000 differential. No need to deal Gomez. Perhaps it even prevents the Rangers from signing Donald Brashear to that ill-advised two-year contract. Unfortunately Ales Kotalik still happens, but that’s inconsequential here.

Picture, for a second, Gomez centering Gaborik. Seems nice, right? Guess that means the Rangers don’t need to sign Brad Richards?

But that means no Gomez for McDonagh. No cornerstone defenseman. No future captain. What do the Rangers do on the blue line? Does that force them to keep Michael Del Zotto, instead of trading him for Kevin Klein? Do they go after a big name defenseman in a subsequent free agent frenzy?

Do the Black-and-Blueshirts come into existence under John Tortorella? Does the Gaborik/Tortorella rift exist if it’s Gomez feeding Gaborik passes?

Do the Rangers still trade for Rick Nash? Does this mean the Rangers don’t trade Gaborik to Columbus for a package that included Derick Brassard and John Moore? Moore was included in that Keith Yandle deal a few years later. Without Brassard, do the Rangers have Mika Zibanejad today?

Do the Rangers, riding McDonagh as their 1D, still get to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014? The Eastern Conference Final in 2015?

We do know that the 2018 fire sale deal, that saw McDonagh sent to Tampa with JT Miller for Vlad Namestnikov, Brett Howden, Libor Hajek, and picks that became Nils Lundkvist and Karl Henriksson, doesn’t happen. Does the Nash fire sale deal still happen?

Not to mention that Drury currently holds a front office position with the Rangers as well.

One ownership screw up in Buffalo. Ten years of impact for the Rangers. And counting.


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  • That’s a considerable number of moves mentioned. One doesn’t realize how many players have come, and gone in such a short period of time!!!!!!!

  • We are going to be in a bit of a similar quandry. Having to move or buyout players in an effort to sign and keep the ones you want. Seems like a Shatty buyout is inevitable – but is it enough?

    I always liked Drury over Gomez

    • That lousy Shatty contract is coming back to bite us in the rear. Man was that a horrible move they made there!!!!!!!

      I just hope some day they will learn not to go down that road again……………

  • Signing high priced free agents has that allure of getting the ‘new shiny available player’. And there’s no doubt Panarin makes us a far better team. But as Sal said, we’re going to be in a bit of a quandry. With Panarin at $81.654MM over his term and Trouba getting $7.5-$8 per for most likely for 7 years, I think JG will be forced into buyout hell. We’ll have dead cap space for years. Years that we SHOULD be a legit contender. I hope management can manage a trade in lieu of a buyout. However, I feel with the two players filing for arbitration opening up a second buyout window that’s the road we’ll travel.
    This is where JG will earn his salary.

  • Good morning,

    Is it better to buyout Namestnikov and only pay two years of buyout penalties rather than the 4 year payouts for one of the S’s? Would the cap savings be enough to resign each of our RFA’s? Trouba will get a long term deal but if we bridge Buch, ADA and Lemiex do we have enough money to spread around? The almost 6m we would still have to pay to Shatty in a buy out next year will be hard to swallow. Smith buyout saves us just as much as Names but for twice as long?

    • Better to give Namestnikov away on a 50% retain with conditional returns rather than buy him out.

      Same goes for Shatty. If he exceeds the production you would expect for a 3rd pair player, the other team pays out then at a discount, otherwise doesn’t pay out beyond the initial expense.

  • Thinking we got Scotty Gomez just so he wouldn’t continue to kill us as a competitor. He seemed to always play better against us than he ever did for us.

    Need to makes some trades before we get locked into the dead Cap space for years to come. Thinking Shatty gets bought out and Smith goes to the AHL. Names or Strome get dealt. Would they deal Buch before the hearing?

  • on another note I see Hunter Skinner not going the NCAA route and signed with the London Knights in the OHL. Interesting move from an off the board pick..

    • Not sure I like this. The kid is pipe cleaner thin and while the Knights are a top shelf group, do they run a schedule that can have him put on 25 lbs over the next 2 years?

      • I’m ok with it. The Knights are a great organization. I think the expectations for Skinner are unknown, but biased towards fairly low. If they see something in his game, I think that’s a positive. I know about freshman 15, but he can eat a lot in College or the OHL and put on a few pounds either way…

  • I love these kinds of hypotheticals. One I have thought about many times is trading Zubov when we did. Always hated that deal. Imagine a top 4 of Leetch – Beukeboom and Matias Norstrom – Sergei Zubov during the late 90s? Would love to hear your thoughts.

  • Cannot forget Michael Sauer (2008 & 2009) seasons. If Sauer’s career did not end before it was really about to get going, Sauer, I feel would have been a top 4 d-men with the Rangers from 2010 through the cup finals against the Kings.

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